By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Police are investigating fake letters headed with the Greater Dandenong Council logo purporting to introduce ‘sharia’-influenced by-laws.
Greater Dandenong commander Mark Langhorn said the letters had been placed in residents’ letterboxes across the southern suburbs since late last week.
“We want to assure the community that we have consulted with the council and the contents of the letter are absolutely false.”
Greater Dandenong Crime Investigation Unit detectives are investigating the case.
Inspector Langhorn appealed for recipients to keep the letter in a safe place and carefully take it to a police station.
Police are also seeking relevant CCTV footage.
“Every Victorian has the right to feel safe and secure in the community and in practising their faith, pursuing their values, beliefs and interests,” Inspector Langhorn said.
“We treat all crime seriously, including those that attempt to incite prejudice, racism or discrimination in our community.”
Dated 1 February or “25 Jumma 1404”, the hoax “public notice” announced a list of 10 by-laws applying from 1 April.
They included a ban on serving and consuming alcohol and pork in public, the ban of food and drink in the daytime during Ramadan and females having to cover their hair, arms and legs in public.
It also banned daytime dog walking and public shows of affection, particularly “homosexuality”.
A 12 per cent rate hike for “non-Muslims” was also announced.
The letter stated that the council was proud of its diversity and that “Muslims now form the dominant group in Dandenong”.
“With this program Dandenong City Council (sic) aims to promote equality, increase sustainability and provide a safe, non-discriminatory environment for everyone.”
On a Facebook post, the council said the “fake” letter contained “offensive and misleading” information and was “most definitely not in-line with the views of Council”.
“We are investigating its source.”
Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams, in a Facebook post, said the letter was “designed to create fear and incite racial tensions”.
“It appears to target our Muslim community.
“This is ultimately a cynical (and toxic) attempt to undermine our successful multiculturalism.
“If you stumble across it, file it in the most appropriate place – the bin. #noplaceforracism”
In response to the letter, right-wing political group Australian Liberty Alliance posted on Facebook its desire to “stop Islamisation”.
“With over 30 per cent of Dandenong’s population following Islam, Muslims are now the dominant religious group in the outer eastern suburb of Melbourne,” the ALA posted.
“Already in 2015 a council project asked non-Muslims to wear the hijab – as a social experiment.”
Kuranda Seyit, director of Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations (FAIR), said the letter was “obviously from someone with a sense of humour, albeit in poor taste”.
“A lot of effort has been taken to give the letter an air of authenticity however it’s riddled with so many inconsistencies.
“It’s important to note that the by-laws that were stated in the letter, would not even apply within an Islamic society or country.
“They were quite ridiculous and simply fantastical.”
Mr Seyit, who lives in Dandenong, said letters created more tension and doubts in the minds of residents.
“I can only reassure residents that nothing remotely like this has ever been discussed and that Australian Muslims have no desire for introducing sharia into Australia.”
“Fear-mongering Islamophobes” often created misconceptions about sharia, he said.
“Sharia is a personal aspect of one’s religion and it’s the rules that govern an individual’s practice and traditions like prayer and giving charity.
“My sharia is to be a good and responsible citizen, to be a generous and kind member of society and to give my time to the community by volunteering for mainstream services.”
Any information to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or crimestoppersvic.com.au.